There have been a few consistent themes of Arsenal's last few years. The most obvious one, and most often highlighted, is the lack of trophies. On top of that, the supporters will note, there have been a lot of injuries, although miraculously Lukasz Fabianski is the only current absentee. Another issue that they've often faced is having a weak squad.
It's not necessarily that the squad is thin – like most Premier League clubs they more or less have the full 25 over-21 players, so you can’t argue that their squad needs more players. Rather what’s required is better players in the squad to supplement the first eleven.
As we look towards the Swansea game in the FA Cup, certainly an important match in the Gunners’ season, Arsène Wenger’s options aren’t fantastic. Midfield trio Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla have played almost all of the games they’ve been available for, and surely need a rest. Abou Diaby, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Francis Coquelin are the back-ups, and that doesn’t seem like a bad list on the face of it.
However, when you dissect it, things seem less pretty. Diaby is once again returning from injury – every time there’s optimism he seems to hit a setback, and the situation is beyond parody. Rosicky is in a similar situation, although he seems the most trustworthy of the four back-ups, seeing as he was a key part in Arsenal’s resurgence last season.
Rosicky found himself in that situation because Aaron Ramsey was struggling for form behind Robin van Persie, and since the departure of Cesc Fabregas, Ramsey has found it difficult having been thrust into a position of responsibility. Even though Santi Cazorla has come in to take the weight off of Ramsey, the Welshman is still trying to put together a run of form. He was excellent against Manchester City in an unfamiliar wide role, and impressed in a cameo against Southampton, but other than that hasn’t set the world alight.
Finally Francis Coquelin, a player who many thought could break into the Arsenal first team, especially given their lack of defensive midfielders. He got a chance at the end of last season, but after an average performance against Norwich in a 3-3 home draw, he played poorly against West Bromwich Albion in the final game of the season. In pre-season, expected to kick on and prove himself, he failed to do so, and looked to completely lack any footballing intelligence or awareness.
Overall, Arsenal’s options for rotation aren’t great. Their squad definitely needs improving, as they’ll either tire out their first team by playing them in all competitions, or crash out of all cups because the players who come in aren’t good enough. Gone are the days when clubs would have a nailed on first team – Arsenal need a stronger squad with more healthy competition.
This will probably be the fringe players’ last chance to show that they can play a role in Arsenal’s quest for trophies. If they crash out, it’ll surely prove once again that Wenger needs a stronger squad, and with Theo Walcott looking like re-committing, Arsenal might just avoid their traditional summer focus on important players leaving, which would leave Wenger free to reshape the squad.